All you have to do is read the marquee outside of the bar to understand why:
Farewell to our hero. Officer Skerski. RIP.
Sadly, Officer Gary Skerski - 46 years old, 16-year veteran of the force, married father of two - was shot and killed at Pat's in 2006 as he attempted to quell a robbery.
The tragedy inextricably linked the bar and the Police Department, in a good way. The week of the shooting, owner Pat Halloran hosted a community fund-raiser for Skerski's family that netted $15,000 and, each year since, has hosted a memorial service in tribute to the fallen officer.
Meanwhile, grateful officers adopted the bar as a "family" hangout of sorts.
Which is why the folks at Pat's were still scratching their heads in disbelief Thursday, wondering how one of their own, Officer Kenneth Crockett, a 26-year veteran of the force, would have the audacity to steal $825 from the bar's safe last week while investigating a nearby burglary, as has been charged.
Cops stealing is one thing. But stealing from a place where an officer fell?
"It makes me sick to the stomach," says manager Barbara Kreschick, pretty much summing up everybody's reaction.
"It's like a Native American messing with his sacred burial ground," says regular Dan "Doc" Dougherty. "You just don't do it.
"I don't think they can punish this guy enough."
Crockett's act was obviously the tipping point for Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, who has had to deal with 11 officers arrested since last year on charges that have included murder, rape, and, just last month, drug dealing.
On Thursday, Ramsey announced a comprehensive plan to create a "values-driven" organization and outlined strategies for prevention, training, and intervention - all geared to root out corruption in the department.
If we're tired of hearing about criminal cops, imagine how Ramsey must feel. Every time you turn around, it seems, he has to do the delicate dance of chastising the rotten apples, who get all the headlines, while emphasizing his support for the good ones. The commissioner has a mammoth PR job to do to restore public trust.
Nobody understands that better than the commissioner himself. Especially in light of Crockett's alleged dirty deed.
"Because Pat's Cafe was the place where Officer Skerski's murder took place, it made it even more of an issue," Ramsey said Thursday. "I left voice mail messages [of apology] at the bar, but nothing can make up for it. It's just dead wrong."
Mayor Nutter also called to apologize, and all week, contrite officers have come into the bar, apologizing on behalf of the force.
That's the thing. Corrupt cops not only erode the trust of the community they serve, but they also damage the reputations of their fellow officers.
And for what? If the charges are proved, Crockett will no doubt lose his job, his pension, and his reputation for a measly $825 - "probably less than he made in a week," says Kevin Kreschick, Barbara's husband. "I feel sorry for the guy."
Not Ramsey. I'm guessing if the commissioner has his way, he'll take Crockett's badge and melt it down. It's a ritual that he's implemented for bad cops, their sullied badges never to be worn again.
"There's a legacy associated with the badge," Ramsey said Thursday. "These badges have a history of those who have worn them before. They could be a family member's. . . . If you do dishonor and disservice to your badge, nobody will ever wear it again.
Contact columnist Annette John-Hall
at 215-854-4986 or ajohnhall@ phillynews.com. Read her work at http://go.philly.com/annette.